The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to healthcare professionals grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic has been the subject of much scrutiny, but efforts to address that shortage have drawn a huge amount of public support.
Galway woman and long-time advocate for healthcare workers, Mary Leahy, has been leading a crusade to ensure that nobody is left without the protection they need to carry out life-saving work – and through her founding of Heroes-Aid with a number of colleagues, has managed to raise just shy of €130,000 online in the space of just two weeks.
A bumper donation from MMA star Conor McGregor of €1 million secured by Ms Leahy a fortnight ago – and previously reported by the Galway City Tribune – has already seen PPE such as face masks, visors and gowns delivered to hospitals across the country – but the shortage goes on, and so too does the need for further donations, Ms Leahy said.
“This is a global pandemic and we’re in a global market which makes it difficult. It’s a seller’s market,” she added.
While McGregor’s donation was a huge boost – and any other millionaire wishing to make a donation will be gratefully received – every small donation counts, said Ms Leahy, who is no stranger to the frontline herself as a nurse, public health nurse and National Coordinator for Nurse/Midwife Safety.
“I actually get emotional every time I see someone donate €5, because that’s probably someone that can’t really afford it and yet, it buys two masks,” the former city councillor told the Galway City Tribune this week.
And those two masks could make all the difference as it could mean removing ‘moral distress’ for a healthcare worker.
“No nurse or doctor is being asked to care for a patient without PPE. But nurses and doctors have altruism in them – if a patient needs help, they want to run forward and give it.
“If we manage to provide one mask and that translates to a nurse or doctor being able to go to that patient, then it’s worth it,” said Ms Leahy.
It’s not the wish or intention of Heroes-Aid to replace the HSE in the procurement of PPE – they have a statutory role and are also working hard to deliver the necessary equipment, she added.
Heroes-Aid’s role, as Ms Leahy sees it, is to provide emergency support to hospitals that are on the brink of running out of PPE – and last weekend, with the assistance of the army, delivered vital equipment to seven hospitals spanning an 800km, including Naas, St James’, Limerick and Portiuncula.
There was a lot of criticism recently of PPE delivered from China that wasn’t of the required standard, and Ms Leahy said it was shameful that suppliers had sent that to the HSE, given the requirement and the money spent by the HSE to procure it.
Standards have been upped since, but Ms Leahy said there was a capability and a willingness by many companies in Ireland – including Boston Scientific in Ballybrit – to produce PPE. But sourcing component parts can be difficult.
“I’m on to Boston Scientific helping and giving guidance, and they’re able to run off prototypes in 24 hours, and I give them the link to get it out to staff in the hospitals to try it out and offer suggestions back. Boston Scientific is willing to make masks, but they need the ‘P3’ filters.
“We can make PPE in Galway; we can produce our own masks,” said Ms Leahy, but supports needed to be put in place by Government to assist businesses wishing to do so. “There is a massive ability and willingness to innovate but there is no obvious help available.”
Ms Leahy said she has a link to producers that was secure and trustworthy, and that meant she could secure PPE without having to wade through as much red tape as the HSE sometimes had to.
Her primary concern is the welfare of staff, and ensuring that they are kept safe and able to perform their job without feeling unduly stressed – and there is plenty to be stressed about, she said.
From exposure to the virus, adapting home lives and dealing with the conditions of working in PPE for 13-hour shifts, to rapidly upskilling and being redeployed to new and challenging working environments, healthcare workers are facing huge challenges every day.
A WhatsApp support group has been established by Ms Leahy for workers to share their experiences, and through Heroes-Aid, access to out-of-hours psychologists is also available.
“In the long-term, we want to extend that support to the families of healthcare workers who might be negatively affected by Covid-19.
“Staff are emotionally distressed – they are educated to give a certain standard of care and if they can’t do that, it’s upsetting. Staff are upset at hearing of patients passing away in nursing homes. It is a very distressing time for healthcare workers,” said Ms Leahy.
For more information or to make a donation, visit Heroes-Aid.
Salthill funfair enjoying busy tourist season
The operators of Curry’s Funpark in Salthill are reporting a busy tourist season, despite a delayed opening and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.
While it is nowhere near the busiest season since the amusement company took over the fun fair site in Leisureland in 2014, they are delighted at how the shorter season has been going under difficult circumstances.
With a separate entrance and exit in place and customers expected to queue apart from each other, numbers have been reduced in the park. But opening hours have extended from 11am to 11pm to allow the public to avail of longer hours to enjoy the rides, explains owner Owen Curry.
“There’s a good turnout of people and a great response from our customers at being open. This year adults in their 20s are really coming in the late evenings, whereas before we would have been quiet in those last few hours.
“There’s nothing like getting out in a bit of fresh air and do something together. Without a doubt there are a lot more Irish people this year and an awful lot of them are people who haven’t ever been to Salthill which is surprising.”
After initially bringing in the equipment in February to prepare for a St Patrick’s Day opening, at one stage it looked like it would all have to be removed when lockdown was introduced, with Owen running the business from his home in Derry.
Were it not for the great support he got from the business group The Village Salthill, the park may never have opened on July 1, he says.
The opening happened after a two-day inspection, all staff undergoing courses and a lot of work implementing all the guidelines set out in a 90-page document for the operation of amusement parks.
“All our other events have been cancelled – we’d normally have equipment travelling around the country to festivals and events. We were delighted with the support and help from other businesses in Salthill. They helped with advertising and getting the word out there.”
While the park is weather dependent, he enthuses that Salthill is at least blessed to have Leisureland, the Aquarium and plenty of cafes and restaurants alongside the famous beaches and Prom.
“The staycation is definitely working for Salthill – despite the weather,” Owen remarks.
Still lit in the signature Big Wheel is the blue heart in honour of those working at the frontline during the pandemic.
“It was originally meant to be a digital screen for advertising and when we couldn’t open we decided to light a blue heart as a thank you to the front line workers until the Covid finished – we didn’t think it would be still be there but that’s the world we’re in.”
The funpark’s season is likely be extended into the Autumn.
Galway Pride Festival makes the move online
For the first time in its three decades of breaking taboos, Galway Pride will not be holding a parade.
Instead, organisers have switched to a full schedule of almost exclusively online events.
There will be just three events out of more than two dozen where people can gather for Galway Pride week, which begins today (Monday).
There will be the traditional flag-raising event in Eyre Square at midday to mark the launch with a number of speakers and those attending will be asked to social distance and wear masks.
On Wednesday evening, they will host the annual vigil in Eyre Square, while on Sunday morning, a new event will see the community on their bikes for a coffee and cake session in collaboration with the Galway Cycling Campaign.
Last year for the festival’s 30th anniversary, an estimated 2,000 people marched through the city in the parade – a cornerstone of the celebration – with thousands more lining the streets to watch.
Event chairperson Scott Green said that having even a limited number of chances to meet and come together in person safely is really important for the community.
“Undoubtedly isolation is difficult for us all and sometimes it can be taken for granted that your home is a safe and welcoming place. For too many members of our community that safety is not guaranteed.”
“The safety of our community is paramount and so for those who cannot join us in person we will bring our passion and vibrancy to you digitally until it is safe for us all to meet again.
“This will not be a stereotypical Pride but it will still have the same heart and soul put into its organisation,” Scott said.
The Community Awards 2020 will honour those who have been important role models, ran campaigns and helped out in community groups
Several panels will also take place across Pride with topics on anti-racism, mental health, workplace well-being, activism, and trans and non-binary voices.
On the entertainment side, there will be music nights, ‘movie watchalongs’, and a rainbow cake tutorial.
Scott says like many organisations, Galway Pride has had to “learn on our feet” to put together a suitable schedule.
“We had imagined a very different Pride before Covid-19 but we have gone ahead with a mostly virtually calendar of events to deliver another Pride Week because we know how important it is for our community.”
The theme for Pride 2020 is ‘Ní Neart Go Cur Le Chéile’ or ‘strength through unity’.
“It’s a sign of the times in many ways. Never before have we all had to stick together by making choices and sacrifices not just to keep ourselves safe, but to keep others safe. It’s why this year we have dedicated our ‘virtual grand marshal’ role to all healthcare care workers, for exemplifying these selfless principles.
“There are those that are increasingly trying to target the most vulnerable of our community and increasing incidents where a seedy underbelly in our society attack our community members with the utmost of bile. The LGBT+ community stands completely united, and united we will continue to progress as a society.”
All events can be accessed through the Galway Pride Festival Facebook page.
(Photo: Last year’s Galway Pride Parade).
One year wait for hearing of criminal trials in Galway
It takes up to one year for criminal trials to be heard in Galway Circuit Court, according to new figures from the Courts Service.
According to the service’s newly-published annual report for 2019, in the Galway courts area, it took an average of 9-12 months for criminal trials to go to hearing, which is unchanged from the 2018 figures.
The shortest waiting times in the country were in Carlow and Tralee, where cases are heard at the next sitting of the court, while the longest wait was in Monaghan at 18-24 months.
The wait for sentence hearings (from the trial date where a guilty plea was entered) in Galway was 3-6 months, unchanged from the previous year.
Appeals are heard following a 3-6 month wait, which is an increase from two months recorded in 2017 and 2018.
The report shows that civil cases – both trials and appeals – and Family Law cases (contested, non-contested and appeals) are generally heard at the next sitting of the Circuit Court.
Civil trials in Dundalk can take between 12-18 months to be heard, while contested and appealed Family Law cases can take 6-12 months.
Meanwhile, in district courts in Galway, domestic violence barring order and protection order applications take four weeks to be heard – the previous year, such cases were held at the next sitting of the court.
However, urgent applications relating to domestic violence in Galway are heard on the next day the district court sits.
Criminal summonses in Galway District Court can take 16 weeks to be heard (the previous year it was a 12-15 weeks wait), while charge sheets are heard at the next sitting of the court, the same as the previous year.
Summonses in Carlow can take 20-28 weeks to be heard, while in Tralee, the wait is 8-12 weeks.
In Family Law sittings in Galway, applications for maintenance or guardianship take between 4-8 weeks to be heard, compared to 6-8 weeks the previous year.
Last year, civil cases took 16 weeks to reach the District Court here, compared to an 8-12 week wait the previous year.
That compares to 12-16 weeks in Portlaoise and Letterkenny and four weeks in Roscommon and Waterford.
In the High Court, waiting times for civil and family cases stood at two months, unchanged from the previous year and the shortest in the country. The longest wait was recorded in Limerick at 25 months.